On July 31, 2023, the Honorable Edward M. Chen of the United States District Court for the District of Northern California granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. (The court issued a redacted and public version of the order on August 10, 2023.)
Plaintiffs claim that Thomson Reuters’s CLEAR platform not only surreptitiously collects vast quantities of Californians’ personal data but then sells this information to third parties, including commercial and government entities in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law and California’s common law of privacy.
Cohen Milstein and co-counsel filed the first amended class action complaint on behalf of plaintiffs on November 14, 2022.
Thomson Reuters is best known for its news agency (Reuters) and its online legal research service (Westlaw). But the company makes money in another, lesser-known way. It collects a vast quantity of photos, identifying information, and personal data of American consumers, including Californians, without their consent and sells that information to corporations, law enforcement, and government agencies. Those whose identities the company sells, however, receive no compensation. Most of them don’t even know it is happening.
Thomson Reuters sells this information through an online platform it calls CLEAR which provides access to both public and non-public information about hundreds of millions of people and offers comprehensive cradle-to-grave dossiers on each person, including names, photographs, criminal history, relatives, associates, financial information, and employment information. The CLEAR database also includes information from third-party data brokers and law enforcement agencies that is not available to the general public, including live cell phone records, location data from billions of license plate detections, real-time booking information from thousands of facilities, and millions of historical arrest records and intake photos.
Because of CLEAR, Californians’ identities are up for sale without their knowledge, let alone consent.
Thomson Reuters sells detailed dossiers on Californians across the state, people who have no idea their personal information is being appropriated, aggregated, and sold over the internet. California’s Unfair Competition Law prohibits corporations from engaging in unlawful and unfair acts, which include appropriating a person’s personal information and selling it without their consent. Yet that is precisely what Thomson Reuters is doing with CLEAR, depriving Californians of their autonomy, dignity, and ownership of their own identities in the process.
This lawsuit seeks to remedy Thomson Reuters’ repeated violations of Plaintiffs’ and class members’ rights and to enjoin the company from continuing to profit off their personal information without their consent.
Case style: Brooks, et al. v. Thomson Reuters, Case No. 3:21-cv-01418-EMC-KAW, United States District Court for the Northern District of California